Monday, May 15, 2006

Tissa Ariyaratne


Scattering Ashes of TISSA ARIYARATNE in the sea, opposite Kinross Club, Sunday 22nd June 03’ 12.00 noon.

From today TISSA’s ashes will continue to swim in the company of Mike Sirimanne, Rodney Jonklass and Vicky Athukorale as often as they did together in the sea, that they loved opposite Kinross.


APPRECIATION - June 2003

Tissa was one of my oldest and dearest friends. We met through another dear friend, Ralph Forbes, tragically long dead in a plane crash. It was about 55 years ago, when we were neighbours in Bambalapitiya. Ralph taught us to swim and introduced us to Kinross Swimming and Life Saving Club when we were about 15 years old. This became our second home and led us to manhood under the firm guidance of the Club's "guru" Mike Sirimanne.

Tissa was brave, bold and adventurous. He completed the 2 mile sea swim regularly at Mt Lavinia helping Kinross win the Team trophy on many occasions. In later years he surprised everyone by completing the arduous 6 mile sea swim from Kinross. He was amongst the pioneers with International stalwarts such as Rodney Jonklaas in skin diving and spear fishing. He designed and made an underwater camera from an ordinary Kodak box camera and took the first underwater pictures ever in Sri Lanka. Tissa was a great innovator and he engineered the first spear fishing gun modelled on the Italian “Cernia” of the 1950s. He was the youngest Sri Lankan to own a Harley Davidson motor cycle and it was a thrill to ride with him on this giant and powerful motor bike. He was the first person to row a canoe down the Mahaveli from the hills to Trincomalee. His brother Ubey was the only one brave enough to accompany him.

He was famously nicknamed "Saigon" after the adventure film by that name starring Alan Ladd, which so captivated Tissa. The name stuck such that at public events including the National Surf Life Saving Championships his name as a participant was so announced on the mike.

Tissa was not a big man but he was beautifully athletic in his physique, good looking and extremely fit with very moderate habits. He was gentle, kind hearted and extremely generous to those not so well off, although he was never a wealthy man himself. He never said an unkind word about anyone, was never heated in discussion and could not ever be drawn into an argument, leave alone a fight.

Marriage brought him great happiness and contentment and he was devoted to his wife Ranji and daughter Anoja, and they to him. They were a hospitable family and always good hosts in their home to their numerous Kinross friends visiting from overseas. “Tissa was interested in the The OPERA and classical music. He encouraged his daughter ANOJA to follow a career in music and she rewarded him by having the distinction of being first in the pianoforte exams of the ROYAL COLLEGE OF MUSIC. His great joy was to invite his many friends from overseas to listen to ANOJA’S impromptu musical recitals at his home in Ratmalana.

A few years ago after Mike Sirimanne's death Kinross needed a steady hand at the helm and Tissa gladly came out of retirement to take on the role of President for a good period of time.

Tissa was popular and much loved and it was good to see all of his friends rallying to his support during his distressing and inevitably fatal illness. Tissa greatly appreciated this and found the time to write and give thanks.

Tissa had completed his three score and ten years but in his fit and happy state should have been assured of a longer innings. Fate however is fickle and cruel and called time on him.

His numerous friends in Sri Lanka and around the World are joined in our sadness at his departure and regrets at the loss of a fine man. Our deepest sympathies to his family.

He will be truly missed by the Kinross Brotherhood of the 1950-1960 when the spirit of Kinross “DE PROFUNDIS” was at its greatest.

May he rest in peace.

DR G Kanakaratnam : United Kingdom

On behalf of :-
In Australia: Allister Bartholomeusz, Ron Bartholomeusz, Ian De Zilwa, Carliie Chalon, Ian Kelly, Hildon Bevan, Langston Pereira, Mohammed Fowzi, Bert Van Geyzel, Aubrey Van Cuylenberg, Robert & Maurice Brohier, Vernon De Alwis, Trevor Ebert.

In USA – Randy Grey & Hilmi Khalid IN HONG KONG – Ratten Manahgram

In UK – Vijit Kulatunga, Dr. Sam Samarasekara, Tony Williams, Desmond Templar, Chandra Seneviratne

In Denmark – Tony Fernandez

More Appreciations from across the Globe

Ian Kelly – Australia
Tissa was a great guy in my book a good roll model to all the younger guys of the club, always willing to help out, with his experimental mind he would give anything a go, such as designing his own under water equipment, masks, camera, spears, wearing his specially designed trunks, tied in a not at front, with a jaw like desperate Dan he would walk out of the water with his load of fish and once with an Octopus which we had to soften by dashing it on a rock, that was before we learnt to boil it with a green papaw. He was definitely an adventurer at heart and in actions, like the time he used Mike Sirimanne old canoe to take him through the Mahawali ganga, I believe it was quite a feat. So we do have good memories of our dear friend who has sadly passed away. RIP Tissa we all loved and respected you in our own way.

Tony Williams in Malta
We have been really saddened to read the news that Tissa is no longer with us. What a terrible loss, as you said we all have our special memories of a truly great 'character' - always with a wide smile and a gentle demeanor.

My abiding memory will always be seeing him astride his Harley up by the canal on the Galle Road on a slightly elevated position, and as a special treat allowing us to sit in that great big tractor-like seat...........and then teaching me how to fall of a motor-bike without breaking my neck - hours of falling and rolling 'hand, elbow then an across the shoulders roll' he would insist, on the sands outside the Club House. That guidance and practice has certainly saved my neck more than once.............Goodbye dear friend.

Tony Fernandez in Denmark
THAT WAS REALLY SAD TO HEAR

LIKE MIKE A MAN OF THE SEA. THE OCEAN WAS HIS LIMIT:

MAY HIS SOUL REST IN PEACE.

I HAVE SOME WONDERFUL MEMORIES TOO.

Desmond & Rosmarie Templer – United Kingdom
I am deeply saddened at the passing away of our dear and true friend Tissa.

I always remember Tissa to have a good laugh, even when things were not good. Always helpful and would dive in when the Kinross Club needed someone.

May the GOOD LORD BLESS HIM !

APPRECIATION: Daily Mirror 22 July 2003

Tissa Ariyaratne

I venture to write this appreciation as a most fitting tribute to pay homage to a sage, boss, mentor, friend, a prolific banker and a versatile sportsman. It is with profound grief and shock I learnt of his sudden demise on May 6, 2003.

Tissa was born in the year 1931. He was a native of Matale, and was the youngest in a family of six children. His father was a most respected post master. During Tissa's younger days, the family moved to reside in Colombo, probably as his father may have laid emphasis and priority on education of the children. Tissa' s eldest brother was a medical officer who pre-deceased him at the prime of his age while having established a lucrative a private practice at Mt. Lavinia while another brother was a English lecturer.

Tissa was educated at St.Peter's College, Bambalapitiya which coincidentally was my 'alma mater' too. He excelled in academic studies at college while taking active part in sports and cultural activities. He possessed dynamic skills of water sports, swimming, diving, rowing at outside venues when facilities were not available in college. The college was devoid of the luxury of a swimming pool at that time to Tissa ' s disadvantage.

Immediately after completing his studies successfully he opted for a professional career in banking. He was selected to the Bank of Ceylon in 1951 having all required credentials as a junior clerk at the age of 20. During that era the top management of Bank of Ceylon consisted mostly of competent British nationals.

The standard of work, discipline were at unprecedented high levels. Tissa as a young banker was dedicated and committed to handle difficult tasks entrusted upon him. He was able to adjust to tough challenges in the new environment. He soon became conversant in many areas of banking procedures. He set an example leading from the front by inspiring his subordinates by displaying his outstanding characteristic attributes. He possessed an exemplary character. His charismatic and pragmatic approach together with his pleasing disposition towards all subordinate staff and clients bore ample testimony to the correct approach he adopted to perform duties to perfection. This made his desired mission a resounding success. He was a calm, cool, collected, a composed and a very humble person. He was a very jovial and affable person who always had a pleasing smile. He possessed a marvelous sense of humour. At the time I knew him initially he was one of the rare members of the entire Bank of Ceylon staff who was privileged to travel by one's owns car to office. He married Ranjini Rajawasam, a lady from Ratmalana in the year 1968 and lived at 1st Lane since then. He spent a successful and peaceful family life for nearly 35 years until his demise. His demise was an irreparable loss to his very devoted understanding wife and his only daughter Anoja. Tissa was a dedicated and very caring husband and a father. His wife and daughter cherished his ideals, hobbies and principles. The duo cannot believe that Tissa is no more. I am sure they will take a long time to get over the shock and grief of his loss.


Immediately after completing his studies successfully he opted for a professional career in banking. He was selected to the Bank of Ceylon in 1951 having all required credentials as a junior clerk at the age of 20. During that era the top management of Bank of Ceylon consisted mostly of competent British nationals. The standard of work, discipline were at unprecedented high levels. Tissa as a young banker was dedicated and committed to handle difficult tasks entrusted upon him. He was able to adjust to tough challenges in the new environment. He soon became conversant in many areas of banking procedures.

He set an example leading from the front by inspiring his subordinates by displaying his outstanding characteristic attributes. He possessed an exemplary character. His charismatic and pragmatic approach together with his pleasing disposition towards all subordinate staff and clients bore ample testimony to the correct approach he adopted to perform duties to perfection. This made his desired mission a resounding success.

He was a calm, cool, collected, a composed and a very humble person. He was a very jovial and affable person who always had a pleasing smile. He possessed a marvellous sense of humour. At the time I knew him initially he was one of the rare members of the entire Bank of Ceylon staff who was privileged to travel by one's owns car to office.

He married Ranjini Rajawasam, a lady from Ratmalana in the year 1968 and lived at 1st Lane since then. He spent a successful and peaceful family life for nearly 35 years until his demise. His demise was an irreparable loss to his very devoted understanding wife and his only daughter Anoja. Tissa was a dedicated and very caring husband and a father. His wife and daughter cherished his ideals, hobbies and principles. The duo cannot believe that Tissa is no more. I am sure they will take a long time to get over the shock and grief of his loss.

He served Bank of Ceylon for 40 years up to the year 1991. During his career he held several vital and prestigious positions mostly in the head office contributing the immense skills and knowledge for the institution he loved. At the time of retirement he was the Chief Manager of the Premises Department. He believed in motivation and persuasion rather than compulsion in his own inimitable style. Although he was flexible he never made hollow promises. He realised that in certain areas compromise was not possible. During his long tenure of service he rendered yeoman service for the sheer upliftment of the image of the institution.

Tissa after his retirement from Bank of Ceylon opted to pursue his career in banking at Sampath Bank where his services were welcomed particularly as he was in good health having a sturdy personality and considering his thorough knowledge in banking. He continued his impressive work at Sampath Bank for a further period of 10 years in the loans recovery department until he called it a day after serving in the banking field for 50 long years. Tissa, apart from responsibilities he shouldered during his long successful banking career, was also actively involved in various sports and other extra curricular activities which gave him tremendous satisfaction. These activities enabled him to move out from the strenuous monotonous life as a banker. He was a versatile sportsman from childhood. He excelled in long distance swimming, water polo, rowing and life saving. He was the president of the Kinross Swimming Club for a number of years. He possessed stamina in abundance, one who could swim six miles at a stretch. While at Sampath Bank he trained some employees the art of swimming at his 'alma mater', St Peter's College, swimming pool.

During his long tenure of service he rendered yeoman service for the sheer upliftment of the image of the institution.

Tissa, apart from responsibilities he shouldered during his long successful banking career, was also actively involved in various sports and other extra curricular activities which gave him tremendous satisfaction. These activities enabled him to move out from the strenuous monotonous life as a banker. He was a versatile sportsman from childhood. He excelled in long distance swimming, water polo, rowing and life saving. He was the president of the Kinross Swimming Club for a number of years. He possessed stamina in abundance, one who could swim six miles at a stretch. While at Sampath Bank he trained some employees the art of swimming at his 'alma mater', St Peter's College, swimming pool.

In spite of these interest sin sports activities his main hobbies were, however, classical music, singing, dancing, attending to piano recitals etc. He loved to meet his relatives and friends at wedding receptions, parties and family functions. He was the live wire at these functions. He very enthusiastically lent his talents to any occasion of merry making. The sing song parties will continue but the void left with his demise can never be substituted. His sense of humour coupled with his sharp wit will also be terribly missed.

Tissa Ariyaratne, in spite of all this involvement as a much honored citizen in the thick of sports, social and cultural activities, balanced his day to day life excellently. He also held the prestigious post of Vice President of the Bankers' Association for over three years but opted to get relieved of the responsibilities owing to his recurrent illness during the past two years.

He maintained a sturdy physique having abundant stamina until he acquired a very rare illness diagnosed as Mealo Desplastic Syndrome which is due to deficiency of white cells in the blood stream. A person having this disease is prone to infection. Tissa had a number of blood transfusions at regular intervals. He had at a number of times come back to normal life after treatment. The last time he had unfortunately contacted pneumonia subsequent to a blood transfusion which made him seriously ill. After a couple of days he passed away at the Intensive Care Unit at the Nawaloka hospital.

During his period of illness, close relatives rallied around his beloved wife and daughter. They saw to it that he got the best medical attention. Colossal sums of money were spent to save his life.

A large amount of mourners from all walks of life from different communities paid their last respects at his funarals. Many were not aware that he was ailing from a dreaded decease, as he was back to normal life after a blood transfusion. His large circle of friends who have migrated overseas having seen his obituary notice via Internet have been shocked to learn of his demise. Several sympathy messages from his old pals are still conveyed to his family. During the hour of profound grief to give a sigh of relief to my mentor's grieving wife, Ranjini and daughter Anoja, I am sure from the time you have been acquainted with him, his gentility of manners, sterling character, sporting feats, ideal human characteristics and values bear ample testimony to the high esteem with which he was held in society. This would certainly give you the opportunity to whisper to yourselves, "Weren't we a lucky wife and daughter?" He was a devout Buddhist who practised the precepts of Buddha to perfection. May he attain the supreme bliss of nirvana

Sunil Thenabadu

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too was a close friend of Tissa and others. Eg. Rodney Jonkless, Dr Knagaratnam, Lou Spittle. I too participated in many two mile swims and other meets. I miss Tissa. I counted on meeting him on my next visit to Colombo.
R.I.P
Mayu Mahadeva.
If anyone remembers me, please contact me via aonenat@hotmail.co.uk
Please contact me via

7:40 AM  
Anonymous Rex De Silva said...

I knew Tissa and always admired and respected him. I hope to include a paragraph on him in my forthcoming book "A History of Diving in Sri Lanka". I have included images of Tissa and other pioneer divers in the "History of Diving" page in my website. To access click on: http://sites.google.com/site/rexidesilva/

Rex De Silva

2:21 AM  

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